The following excerpt is taken from Teddy’s Last Swim in Paradise Land, the 2nd novelette in Journey of Light: Trilogy, Authorhouse, 2004. Perhaps, this taste will lead you to read the complete piece which is about finding happiness amidst chronic illness and suffering.
Our story follows Teddy Polinski as he travels from psychiatric hospital to nursing home and visits his son (Scott) and wife (Helen). Caring for those he loves has worn Teddy out and he is near a breaking point. Yet somewhere in Teddy’s past is a ‘ladder’ to help him climb the fence he has built around himself. Teddy must journey back to Paradise Land Amusement Park; which was an important part of his youth and recover lost happiness.
Gradually, Teddy realized he made a mistake in thinking. He believed happiness was dependent upon events. This is partially true, as sometimes happiness is connected to events, but there is another kind of happiness. This more independent, more lasting happiness is a spiritual state of being.
In the past, when good things happened, Teddy was happy. When he got a raise at work, or a new car, life was good. Similarly, life was bad when they got a call from the hospital Scott was in a fight, or Teddy did not have enough money to pay a bill.
Very late in life, Teddy learned the trick was to be happy in spite of bad things happening. To be dependent upon external events and others for joy was a fool’s game. Teddy found something deeper, in the very depth of his soul.
Joy and happiness were an inner spiritual condition, a peace and harmony where you were grateful for being alive and took pleasure in life. Happiness meant being involved with others and connected to God, drawing strength from the reservoir of your own soul. There was a part of you, that was independent of life and when your body died this part continued; the soul was always with God and, to realize this, all you need do was dive into the water of your soul.
This spiritual strength and wisdom were the water Teddy climbed the fence to experience. The fence was his expectation, or mind set, happiness was dependent upon others and events. This water, of God’s Love and Mercy, was deep inside of Teddy. Swimming in the cool, clear water of Paradise Land helped Teddy remember this essential truth. Everything you need for the journey is already inside you.
As Teddy prepared for his morning of visiting Scott and Helen, he realized life had ups and downs but, far below the surface; there was always the still water of Paradise Land. To take a swim and restore balance and happiness, all he had to do was turn inward.
Life was filled with misery. Similarly, life was filled with joy and fun things to do. That was what Reverend, John Wilson tried to teach Teddy; while John struggled with cancer and painful chemical treatments, John urged Teddy to drink of his own spirit.
John once claimed, “Happiness is found by turning inward, by thanking God for all God gives. It is found in helping others, as God’s servant, by being part of life and grateful for the beauty around you. This change in thinking, or awareness, was only possible through a spiritual awakening.” Teddy found his awakening in the cool, crystal water of Paradise Land.
Now that Teddy realized this, how was he going to put this wisdom into practice? That was the challenge of each day, and as Teddy got ready to leave his apartment, he spoke to God and requested God’s help. Teddy walked through the door of his apartment, realizing God was always present. He had forgotten this and missed the point of sickness. Suffering could be transcended and, while Paradise Land was located in Far Rockaway, it was also a place deep within. Teddy had a season pass. All he had to do to jump the fence of his negative thoughts and turn toward God.
We were born to be happy. We forget this. Sadly, we look to the world and events for completeness, instead of swimming in our own spiritual water.
As Teddy rode the elevator down from the 24thfloor, he was confident, his life was changing, and with God’s help, Teddy would be happy each day.
Slowly, Teddy pulled the rental out of the garage, adjacent to his building. After he paid the overnight parking fee, Teddy decided to buy a car. In the city, there were additional expenses but, at this point in life, he needed the freedom car ownership provided.
Perhaps, he would take a vacation, drive out to Colorado, and see his sister, June. She lived in the mountains outside of Denver and he had never been there; there were so many places he wanted to visit.
Waiting for the traffic light to change, Teddy began making a mental list of things he needed to do:
- Teddy realized that happiness was transitory and would come and go. Depending upon many factors, it was not a static mental state.
- Often it was the small things in life that people enjoyed most. Visiting the grandchildren, going for a swim, or driving a car. Teddy was going to add things daily to his list.
- Teddy needed to be with people and share his life with them. In addition, he needed some alone time to turn inward and needed to plan these times, so that the correct spiritual balance was maintained.
- He needed to be part of the world and help others. While he was able to do this as part of his sales job, at the liquor store, Teddy wondered if he should develop other ways.
The traffic light changed and the cars behind were honking their horns, telling Teddy to get moving. Teddy turned on his directional and made a left onto the highway entrance ramp. He accelerated and merged into the highway traffic, wondering if it were possible to be happy in the middle of all the torment of the state hospital?
When he asked John Wilson this question, John replied, “Lasting peace and happiness is only found in love of God. Certainly, as I seek to help those who are troubled, I am affected deeply by their pain, but it is possible to have two things in your heart. Compassion is born of inner peace and love.
“Why God created a world where pain is as common as laughter, that my friend is something you must experience and it is a spiritual state.”
As Teddy continued driving south and saw the tan brick buildings of the state hospital, he knew his newly found peace and contentment was about to be tested. When he saw Scott, Teddy wondered, would he remain happy?
Also, Teddy realized that, no matter what happened in the hospital to upset him or Scott, joy was within reach. The refreshing water of Paradise Land was always available and Teddy could go for a swim any time he wanted. All he had to do was say a prayer. Paradise Land was within and fed by the water of God’s Love and Mercy.
Also by Dr. Bitkoff, A Commuter’s Guide to Enlightenment, Llewellyn, 2008 and Journey of Light: Trilogy, Authorhouse, 2004. These books are available on Amazon.Com or from publisher.
To contact author go to: www.stewartbitkoff.com or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.